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Darwin Day

  • Saturday, February 11, 2017
  • 9:00am - 5:00pm

Darwin Day banner, featuring Darwin, a blue-footed booby, and a magnificent frigate.

Top | Presentations | Stations | Tea with Young Darwin

Join us at the largest event of its kind in the country! Spend a day learning about Darwin and what his theories of natural selection have done for the world of science, research and education. Meet some of the scientists who are continuing his work, and learn how Darwin’s theories are being applied in cutting-edge research. In addition to hands-on science education stations, there will be crafts and games for all ages.  Additionally, Mr. Darwin himself will be present and available for questions and discussions all day!

Just for Friends Members: Tea with Young Darwin (RSVP to catherine.starek@naturalsciences.org.)

Darwin Day is supported by an anonymous donor.



KEYNOTE: 1:30pm: Endless Forms Most Venomous and Most Wonderful
Christie Wilcox, PhD, Discover Magazine
Dr. Wilcox will be joining us all the way from Hawaii to talk about how Earth’s deadliest creatures wield terrifying chemical cocktails called venoms. Though they are the species we love to loathe, Dr. Wilcox will show us how these notorious animals hold the keys to a deeper understanding of evolution, adaptation, and immunity. She will be available following her presentation for a signing of her new book, “Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry.”

A deadly blue-ringed octopus

10:30am: How Darwin Did It: Skepticism and Persuasion in Science
Professor William Kimler, NC State University History Program
It is always hard to change a scientific theory. Come hear the story of how Darwin persuaded science and the public to accept the theory of evolution.

11:30am: Darwin’s ‘One Special Difficulty’: The Problem of Social Insects and Natural Selection

Dr. Adrian Smith, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
In “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin wrote, “I … confine myself to one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my whole theory. I allude to the neuters or sterile females in insect-communities: for these neuters often differ widely in instinct and in structure from both the males and fertile females, and yet, from being sterile, they cannot propagate their kind.” What about social insects presented a challenge to Darwin’s theory and what evolutionary insights have we learned since?

12:30pm: Wormy Evolution: Tapeworms, Hookworms and a Worm-like Organ Inside Us
William Parker, PhD, Duke University Medical Center
We will talk about how evolution has made us dependent on intestinal worms (such as hookworms and tapeworms) to be healthy! We will also talk about how evolution left a worm-like organ, called an appendix, inside us. In the end, we will find out why so many of us have allergies, digestive problems, and other inflammatory conditions.

2:30pm: Invisible, Mirrored, and Glowing Animals: Light, Life, and Death in the Deep Sea
Professor Sönke Johnsen, Duke University
Animals in the open ocean have nowhere to hide and are attacked from all directions, so they’ve evolved many special methods to hide. This talk describes the beautiful ways that these animals make and manipulate light to hide in the world’s largest and most mysterious habitat.

The spew bioluminescence of the shrimp Parapandalus sp.

3:30pm: Multi-trait Adaptation: Predicting Evolution in Bahamas Blue Holes
Dr. Brian Langerhans, NC State University Biological Sciences
Evolution never ceases: ALL organisms are constantly evolving, and natural selection is a major reason why. But how predictable is evolution? Can we use our biological knowledge to accurately predict the course of evolution in the wild? This presentation takes us to the Caribbean to explore how predictably different kinds of traits evolve in live-bearing fish living in aquatic islands in a sea of land.


12:30pm: What can Spiders Teach us About the Value of Social Diversity?
Dr. Spencer Ingley, UNC Chapel Hill
Social spiders live in complex groups composed of individuals with different “personalities”. Individuals with different personalities specialize on different tasks — some are great at protecting the nest and subduing prey, while others have a more gentle touch and are better at caring for eggs and spiderlings. In this talk, we’re going to learn about some of the benefits of living in a diverse spider ‘society’ in an ever changing world.

1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm: Animal Adaptations
Beth Cranford, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Why do some animals live in trees and how to they get there?  Come and discover the answers as we meet a variety of live animals that live in trees.

Museum Educator Adrian Yirka presenting on frogs in Windows on the World. Photo: Matt Zeher/NCMNS


Windows on the World presentations are sponsored by:
Syngenta logo



First Floor, Nature Exploration Center

Exploring Adaptation and Natural Selection
Chapel Hill High School
Hands-on activities demonstrating principles of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Alligators: Scaly Survivors
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Scutes, scales, teeth, and tails; alligators are designed for the top of the food chain. It’s an important role to fill, but getting there isn’t always easy.

Tomato Diversity: A Rainbow of Colors
Extension Master Gardeners of Wake County
Extension Master Gardeners will answer all your gardening questions.  Exhibit will highlight tomato diversity.

Darwin and Earthworms
North Carolina Entomological Society
This exhibit highlights Darwin’s considerable contributions to our knowledge of earthworms. The exhibit also features live earthworms, vermicomposting and a number of other show-and-tell items.

Predicting Evolution in Mosquitofish
Langerhans Lab, NC State University
This exhibit focuses on how predation can influence what fish look like and how they behave.

Bat Adaptations
Triangle Troglodytes
Bat anatomy and behavior! Bat facts and what to do if you find a bat.

Baboons and Friends: Studying the Evolution of Social Behavior in Wild Monkeys
Amboseli Baboon Research Project, Duke University
Come study the evolution of friendship and sociality in our close monkey relatives using the same methods that we use when we are studying baboons in the African savannah!

Evolution of Teeth, Hair and Locomotion in Mammals
Research and Collections, Mammal Unit, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Learn about the wonderful diversity of mammals and how they evolved to eat, move around and protect themselves in their environment.

Narwhals: Unicorns of the Sea
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Come build your own narwhal arctic scene that you can take home and learn about this amazing arctic whale!  We will have the Museum’s exquisite narwhal tusk from Research and Collections on display!

NC State University
Cool experiments for elementary school kids! www.plants4kids.org

Evolution in the Age of the Dinosaurs
Virginia Museum of Natural History
The Age of Dinosaurs saw an amazing display of adaptations for new and very different kinds of life, from giant dinosaurs to tiny insects. Visit our table to see and touch real fossils from North Carolina, Virginia, and beyond!

Orchids in Natural History
Triangle Orchid Society
We will have a wide selection of orchids from around the world, highlighting the diversity of this largest group of flowering plants.  We hope to have the famous Darwin Orchid in bloom.

Meet Jerry the Binturong!
Conservators Center
Come meet Jerry Binturong and learn about the evolution and adaptations of binturongs and the 20 other species that live at the Conservators Center.

Second Floor, Nature Exploration Center

Evidence of Evolution
Saint Mary’s School
The evidence for evolution can be seen in convergent evolution, comparative biochemistry and comparative embryology. Activities including matching similar-looking marsupial and placental mammals to their correct forest layers and guessing what various embryos will develop into help to illustrate these ideas.

The Simakobu: the Critically Endangered Primate from the Mentawai Islands
NC State University Biological Sciences
Enjoy a game and learn about the simakobu (pig-tailed langur) native to the Mentawai Islands off the coast of West Sumatra!

Join the Caterpillar Experiment! 
University of North Carolina, Biology Department
Come learn about the life cycle of tobacco hornworm caterpillars, and conduct an experiment to learn about insects and temperature.

Manatees on the Move
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Manatees face many dangers as they navigate the warm waters of the Southern US.  Pretend you are a manatee and dodge boat propellers, avoid red tide and seek delicious sea grass.  Those who survive get a prize!

Third Floor, Nature Exploration Center

Awesome Aquaponics!
NC State University Biological Sciences and Recirculating Farms Club
Play a game and learn about aquaponics and the amazing way fish waste helps plants grow!

The Power of Living Together: Symbiosis between Fungi and Plants 
Lutzoni Lab, Biology Department, Duke University
Although most organisms compete with each other for survival, some organisms choose collaboration as a strategy. We present examples involving fungi associated with different groups of photosynthetic partners (mycorrhizae and endophytic fungi with plants, and lichen-forming fungi with green algae and cyanobacteria).

Watermedia Painting Demo
Stacy Lewis Studio
Stacy will be creating some of her original watermedia paintings.

Animal Evolution
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Come learn about some of our favorite animals with some crazy adaptations!  Meet some live animals, including a ball python, a mole kingsnake, a rabbit, a ferret, a spiny softshell turtle and an eastern box turtle!

Convergent Evolution
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Check out one of the coolest aspects of evolution — convergence. How can two animals separated by thousands of miles and millions of years look almost identical? Find out at the Convergent Evolution table. There will be live animals!

Darwin’s Finches
NC State University Genetics Program
Come learn how Darwin developed the theory of evolution! Ever wonder what it would be like to be a bird? Kids and adults will have an opportunity to simulate Darwin’s studies of finches on the Galapagos Islands. Test out different-sized “beaks” to see how adaptation works. Which bird beak do you think will be the best fit for a particular food item? Have fun with our game of survival and adaptation!

Insect Diversity
NC Entomological Society
Insects account for more than two-thirds of all known organisms, and we are showcasing a few live insects to show their diversity.

Entomology Graduate Student Association
NC State University
Come visit with our friendly live arthropods and learn about evolution through insects!

Traveling in Style
North Carolina Zoo
Discover the many ways animals get from place to place.  It’s not all about legs.

Battle of the Beaks
Girl Scout North Carolina Coastal Pines
Come join Girl Scouts for a battle of the beaks activity!! You will learn a little bit about natural selection and evolution.

Fourth Floor, Nature Exploration Center

Amazing Co-evolution! Plants and Pollinators Craft
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Come learn about co-evolution while making 3D dioramas of bees and flowers that you can take home with you!

Amphibians in the Desert: the Ribbiting World of Spadefoot Toads
Pfennig Lab, UNC Chapel Hill
Explore how spadefoot toads have adapted to the desert!  These special toads hibernate underground and emerge to sing in desert pools.  We will have information and fun activities about how genes and environment affect how tadpoles grow and develop, amphibian life cycles, how spadefoots choose their mates, and how different species interact with each other.

The Amazing Lemurs of Madagascar
Duke Lemur Center
Madagascar is home to some of the most diverse and unique wildlife in the world. Learn how a group of small primates that arrived on Madagascar millions of years ago evolved into over 80 different species of lemurs living on the island today!

Arthropod Adaptations
NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Arthropod Zoo
Learn about the amazing survival strategies employed by arthropods, including mimicry and camouflage.

Bug Love
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Bugs have evolved some incredible strategies for reproduction. From pheromones to elaborate displays, come learn how bugs find “that special someone!”

First Floor, Nature Research Center

Exploring Evolutionary Morphology
Boyer Lab for Evolutionary Morpohology and Paleobiology, Duke University
Explore how scientists use information from the morphology (the way they look) of organisms to make inferences about evolution.

Dr. Jennifer Landin, NC State University Biological Sciences
Adorable trilobites roamed the seas 500 million years ago. Come see the diversity of extinct trilobites and build one of your own.

Domestication Station
Department of Biological Sciences, NC State University
An exhibit on artificial selection, one of the main points of evidence Darwin used to support his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Carnivore Adaptations
Carolina Tiger Rescue
Carnivores have plenty of adaptations that make them top predators. Enjoy hands-on activities while learning about some of the amazing adaptations of carnivores.

Make Your Own Darwin Day Button!
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Show your support for Mr. Darwin and his spot-on theories by coloring your own button!  Our volunteers will make your masterpiece into a special badge you can wear today and forevermore!

Bean Hunters
Wake Technical Community College
Come explore the principles of natural selection!  Many predators rely on visual cues to detect prey.  Come hunt with some unique tools for specific prey in various environments.  Discover if the less conspicuous prey have a selective advantage!

Second Floor, Nature Research Center

Valentines from Darwin and Friends!
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
This station is for kids (and adults!) to write valentines to their friends and loved ones on our Darwin Day-themed Valentine’s Day cards!

Avian Evolution
NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Naturalist Center
Learn how birds evolved and discover how they are related to both alligators and dinosaurs while examining bird specimens, alligator bones, and dinosaur fossils.

Similar Structures
NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Naturalist Center
Get an up-close look at evolution by examining bat wings, bird skeletons, frog bones, and more. Learn about the similar structures shared by related organisms and discover what this tells us about our own evolutionary history.

East Chapel Hill High School
Learn how Darwin discovered the idea of natural selection with hands-on activities! Also learn about the science team, iGEM!

Pipus cleanerus vs. Natural Selection
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Kids become fearsome predators in this activity! We have a dark room filled with a rare type of “snake,” the Eastern Pipus cleanerus. Pipus cleanerus is a diverse species with many colors. As more and more “predators” weed out some of the easier-to-spot colors, we will get to see natural selection in action over many generations!

Third Floor, Nature Research Center

Darwin Day Bookmarks
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Make a bookmark to mark your spot in your favorite of Darwin’s volumes, whether On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilized by Insects or any of his other 23 books!

DNA Fingerprints
Genomics and Microbiology Research Lab, NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Learn how scientists use DNA sequences like fingerprints to identify different species and see how similar your DNA is to other primates.

Paging Dr. Darwin: What Does Evolution Have to Do with Medicine?
Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM)
Ecology and evolution help explain why certain things make us sick and cause disease. Come by and learn how evolutionary thinking can improve the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

Fish Face Frenzy!
The Roberts Lab, NC State University Biological Sciences
Different fish species have evolved differently shaped jaws and faces that allow them to eat different kinds of food, from algae to other fish. At Fish Face Frenzy you can build and color your own fish, and figure out what it eats and where it lives.


Just for Friends Members:

Fourth Floor, Environmental Conference Center, Nature Research Center

2:30–3:30pm: Tea with Young Darwin
Members are invited to join us for an intimate afternoon tea (tea and cake) with young Darwin, as portrayed by Museum science historian Paul Brinkman. RSVP with the Membership Coordinator at catherine.starek@naturalsciences.org.

Top | Presentations | Stations



February 11, 2017
9:00 am - 5:00 pm


Downtown Raleigh
11 West Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601 United States
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Miranda Dowdy